Bonding as a Family on Our Hot Springs Vacations
Our family really loves to travel, but we like to avoid frequenting the expensive, over-hyped Disney-type theme parks which cater to mass consumption. The reason for this family policy is not only so we can travel economically, but also because we can have discovered that it is much easier for us to bond as a family when our surroundings are relatively quiet and peaceful. This is when we can be creative, and use our imagination. As my wife likes to say: "Much better to invent games to play in the water than to stand in line for a ride that goes round and round". So, when Cheryl and Bobbie, our two young daughters were old enough to learn how to swim, we made a concerted effort of seeking out places where hot springs can be found.
Hot springs are external evidence that we live on a planet where below our feet, there are layers of super-heated rock. The water in hot springs has been heated by volcanic activity below the surface, and has seeped up through fissures in the Earth's crust.
The thermal baths of Machu Picchu village
For us, the opportunity to kick back and soak up the natural beauty that surrounds many hot springs has been preferable to pounding the pavement at amusement parks. Not long ago, when our girls had a two week break from school, we visited the wonderful country of Peru in South America. Of course, when you go to Peru, it is almost obligatory that you visit the most famous of all the tourist attractions in South America, Machu Picchu. Well, Machu Picchu far exceeded any expectations that we had. That place is amazing in a dozen different ways, and I have never seen a photo that came close to doing it justice.
We had planned to stay overnight as close as we could to the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, because we were dying to see the fabled sunrise over the ruins. A really pleasant surprise was in store for us. Right at the base of the mountain on which the Citadel of Machu Picchu was built, there is a delightful hot spring. In fact, Aguas Calientes is the name of the town where all the trains to Machu Picchu make their final stop. In Spanish, Aguas Calientes means "hot waters". Where the little river flows into the town there is a lovely hot spring. We felt right at home.
My young daughters had a wonderful time as they splashed around in their bathing suits during the warm tropical evening. They couldn´t stop laughing as they played a game that they had made up. They called the game "Inca Binka Stinka", and they imagined that they were Incan princesses. Their task was to make sure that all the preparations were just right for the grand emperor himself, Pachacutec, who would be coming down from his palace above. On the night of the full moon, Pachacutec would visit the hot spring so he could take his monthly bath, which, according to Cheryl and Bobbie, he really needed.
Lares Hot Springs
In order to get to Machu Picchu you have to pass through the ancient city of Cusco. This high-energy city is surrounded by dramatic mountains, and it is well worth spending some time in. When you experience what Cusco is like, it is easy to see why the Incas chose Cusco to be the capital of their far-flung empire. After touring Cusco, we went out to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Here, in the center of the fertile valley we stayed overnight in town of Calca. Early the following morning we rode to the village of Lares. Good friends had told us that there was an even better hot spring in Lares than the one that we had found at Machu Picchu.
That ride up to Lares on an old unpaved road that followed the river through the steep Andes Mountains was an adventure in itself. But when we got there, we discovered one of the prettiest hot springs we had ever seen. Not only was the countryside around Lares pretty-as-a-picture, but the water was just right. Not too hot, not too cool.
For my family it was a long journey from our home in North America to the little town of Lares in the high Andes, overlooking the great Amazon basin in South America. It was a wonderful trip on which we learned that what is important, no matter where you travel, is to grow closer as a family. We certainly felt very fortunate that we were able to take a break from the pressures of modern living and to bond while sharing such incredible moments together.
© 2019 Harry Smith